Explore Colorado: Best spots to check out the elk

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Jennifer Broome takes us to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park to check out the prime viewing spots for elk.

The elk rut season draws huge crowds in September and October in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  November is also a great time for elk viewing without the crowds.  The golf course in Estes Park is a popular spot to see elk.  In Rocky Mountain National Park, you want to look in the meadows.  Keep your distance from elk.   They are wild animals, even ones like “Brat” who is often seen at McGregor Mountain Lodge on Fall River Road.  If you can see the nostrils flare, hear them gritting their teeth, or especially if the hair on the back of their neck stands on end, you are in their space and too close.

 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates there are 2300 elk in Estes Park with a bull to cow ratio of 45 bulls for every 100 animals.  Rocky Mountain National Park estimates 600-800 elk in winter.  Rocky Mountain National Park is monitoring the impacts on the winter range and impacts of the elk on aspens and willow vegetation.  The elk population is a lot higher in summer in the park.

 

Original homesteaders depleted the elk population in the late 1800s.  The elk population was gone by 1880.  Spearheaded by Pieter Hondius Sr, with some financial backing from F.O. Stanley, elk re-introduced to Estes Park in 1913 when 25 elk were transported from Yellowstone National Park.  In 1915, right before Rocky Mountain National Park was established, 24 more elk were added.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year.

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